Principal Peterson's Blog
Appropriately resolving conflict is an important lesson for all students
March 26, 2018
I often use personal experiences as a backdrop for the topics I write about, and today’s topic of student-conflict is one that I deal with from the perspective of parent and principal. I intentionally phrased “student-conflict” but at the heart of what I want to write about is more widely referred to as “bullying.”
New York State Education defines bullying as, “an unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” The Federal government similarly identifies criteria by noting that bullying generally involves (1) an imbalance of power, (2) and intent to cause harm and (3) repetition. I share these legal definitions because the overwhelming number of reports are not bullying but rather student-conflict. In both instances, educating our students is the first line of defense to bring about change.
Seeking the help of an adult is always a good first step. Too often students will let things build up for a long stretch and then when an incident happens they will make the claim that “it has been going on forever and the school has done nothing to help.” As a school staff, we cannot help resolve a situation that we are unaware of, so it is important that if a student believes that he/she is being bullied, the ideal first step is to report to the teacher or adult where the incident is taking place. It is also important to make that report in a timely manner; addressing bullying or conflict weeks after the fact is much less effective. From there, communication will be made with either the school counselors or administrators until the problem is appropriately addressed and ultimately parents will be informed.
An important value statements at ACS is, “Value Everyone, Everyday, Everywhere,” and as parents and teachers, we play a critical role in reducing student-conflict simply by modeling behaviors that show kindness, compassion and love. We can also talk with our kids so that they are aware of the impact that bullying can take on others and train our kids to confidently speak out when they witness acts of unkindness rather than being passive bystanders. Sometimes the “golden rule” of treating others as you would want to be treated isn’t followed by everyone and as is the case for many of their school experiences, learning how to appropriately resolve conflict is a life-long skill that all students must learn.
Expecting your children to converse about their day is a good thing, whether they want to or not.
(This is a version of an article I previously wrote for a newsletter in September of 2016 and I am re-sharing here on our new website).
I have four school-aged children and a daily routine that I intentionally continue when I arrive home is asking my kids a prompt to generate discussion. I ask each of them, “How was your day?” They almost always say the same thing by uttering an uninspired one word response of, “good.” They remind me of students in classrooms I used to teach in because that answer is their way of ending the conversation without effort. They have (in their mind) successfully answered the question and are relieved of the burden of having to think further. As dads everywhere can attest, fathers have a special skill of annoying their kids and I execute that talent by asking a follow up question. I ask them, “Can you explain to me why it was good?” They often struggle with this follow up and what I’ve realized is that my practice of asking follow up questions is an important opportunity that I have created for my children to practice important “literacy” skills that they’ll need for success in school and in life. My follow up question, although annoying to them, forces them to provide evidence and to craft a succinct response from a variety of experiences that occurred over the course of the day.
In classrooms here at Albion, students are doing the exact same thing with reading. Teachers are providing a variety of sources and asking students to make a claim and support it with evidence from the texts so that they can ultimately offer a succinct response to a given prompt. Using these skills in real-life situations is the best way to reinforce the relevance of the material being covered, and the literacy skills being taught in our classrooms are essential for students to develop the independent ability to be life-long learners.
So here is my invitation to you as parents; ask your kids what they’re reading at school and invite them to discuss it with you. It’s a great way to not only reinforce important literacy skills, but it gives you another reason to have conversation with your kids. And if your kids are anything like mine, I’m sure that you’ll take any opportunity to get them talking to you, even it does annoy them.